The Job Search: An Investigation of College Students Feelings Toward Graduation Plans

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1 The Job Search: An Investigation of College Students Feelings Toward Graduation Plans Elaine Atcheson, Green Bouzard, Ryan Evans, Morgan Harden, Kathryn Southard, and Ryan Trostrud

2 Table of Contents Agreement with The Main Street Project Committee....3 Insights from the Scholarly Literature Method and Sample...4 Analysis Works Cited...21 Appendix A: Supplementary Figures and Tables

3 Agreement with the Main Street Project Committee Through a series of memos exchanged with Main Street Project Committee chair Professor Steve McKelvey, we negotiated the questions and information we would pursue through our survey research. Below is a brief outline of these questions and the subsequent subtopics of each question that we investigated. 1) Which students are most likely to visit the CEL for career development and why? a) Have students heard of the CEL? b) Have students visited the CEL? c) Do students want to have a more personal connection (i.e. regular one-onone meetings) with a career counselor? d) Do students think it s easy to use the CEL s job-seeking services? 2) To what extent are students interested in receiving help with career development? If they are looking for support, do they turn to institutional resources like the CEL or other networks? a) When do students begin post-graduation planning (graduate school or job search)? b) How do students plan for post-graduation? What resources do they turn to? 3) How helpful is the CEL in the job/career/graduate school search? a) Does the CEL offer services for students intended career paths? b) How helpful are specific CEL graduate/professional school and job-search related services? c) What makes it difficult or easy to use the CEL? 4) What other resources have students found or used in their job/career search? a) What do students want from the CEL? b) What do students want beyond the CEL? Our preliminary data analysis was directed toward answering these questions. We used variables such as class year, level of anxiety, major, and gender, among others, to draw conclusions about the data on a bivariate level. We examine each item and subsequent subtopics below (starting on p. 5). Insights from the Scholarly Literature Much scholarly literature has explored the transition to post-college life, college students struggle with the post-college decision process, and what institutions are doing to mediate the struggle (Brown 2004). However, there is a definite lack of detail and depth in the scholarly literature concerning the resources offered by institutions of higher learning for students actively seeking jobs or careers. The literature does offer a sense of the general purpose of college campus centers like the CEL, which work in part to address students job and career or graduate school search needs. For instance, Kolowich (2009) found that colleges have seen a 50 percent increase in career center traffic (mostly likely due to the economic down turn), and campus career centers have devised strategies to help students succeed in finding a job or career. Most strategies focus on networking in some way, and include but are not limited to social networking sites, 3

4 appealing to the loyalty of alumni, immersion programs with alumni, and appealing to parents. Campus career centers are also expanding their services by utilizing social networking websites, matching students with successfully employed alumni, attracting companies to job fairs by waiving fees (Kolowich 2009) and generally shifting and evolving their strategies as more research about employer expectations is conducted and reported (Palomares 2000). In addition, Venable (2010) lauds the expansion of career center availability through online services, noting the appeal to students who are unable to physically access campus career centers due to busy schedules. Many of these strategies are already implemented by the CEL. Some research has examined students attitudes toward career development services and students subsequent use of those services. For instance, Ludwikowski, Vogel, and Armstrong (2009) observed that a negative public stigma associated with career counseling, specifically a stigma against seeking help, could impact the number of students who choose to seek career services. Conversely, anxiety may add to the pressures of job and career seeking, motivating students to seek out career counseling and services (Eunjoo and Gysbers 2007). This framework of scholarly literature helped us formulate the questions for our research not only on the use and effectiveness of CEL job- and career- seeking services, but also on the possible reasons that students feel deterred or are encouraged to use the CEL for graduate school and job- and career- searching. Methods and Sample We conducted quantitative survey research within the student population at St. Olaf College to investigate job- and career- seeking. Before conducting the survey, we investigated relevant scholarly literature and conducted a focus group with 7 students. The survey consisted of 34 questions from two research subgroups, all of which aimed to study the larger topic of career and vocational development and seeking. Our survey was composed of questions from job- and career- seeking and informal experience and skill building. The survey was sent to a random sample of 777 students. We received 292 responses to the survey, with a response rate of 37.58%. The respondents were 36.8% male and 63.2% female. 25.4% were seniors, while 21.3% were juniors, 28.6% were sophomores, and 24.4% were first year students. Respondents reported a variety of majors, but the most common were Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, English, and Undeclared. Analysis The following analysis, including results and discussion follows the order of our agreement with The Main Street Project Committee (see page 3). 1) Which students are most likely to visit the CEL and why? A student s class year, major, and anxiety level influence his or her likelihood of visiting the CEL. We collapsed majors into the five categories listed on the St. Olaf website (Natural Sciences and Math, Social Sciences, Humanities, Fine Arts, and Interdisciplinary Studies), and added two categories: Undeclared, and Miscellaneous. We assessed students levels of anxiety by creating an anxiety index using the following items from the survey: 4

5 1) When I think about the year after graduation, I feel anxious about my employment or continuing education situation; 2) I feel confident about my short-term plans for the first year after graduation; 3) I feel confident about my long-term plans for after graduation (for beyond the first year); 4) When I think about the year after graduation, I feel uncertain about my employment or continuing education situation; 5) I feel behind in my planning for my employment or continuing education after graduation. We gave numerical values to responses so that, when analyzed, they represented the students with higher anxiety with a higher numerical value. 1a) Have students heard of the CEL? We asked whether or not students had heard of the CEL before taking our survey. We found that 88% of our respondents had heard of the CEL before our survey. Figure 1.0 Knowledge of the CEL was also compared across class year. 100% of seniors and juniors had heard of the CEL, 90% of sophomores, and 64% of first years. There is a weak positive correlation; as class year increases, knowledge of the CEL increases (see Figure 1.1 and Table 1.0, Appendix B). We examined awareness of CEL across majors. 93% of Natural Sciences and Math majors had heard of the CEL, 91% of Social Sciences majors, 90% of Humanities majors, 83% of Fine Arts majors, 89% of Interdisciplinary Studies majors, and 77% of those undeclared (see Figure 1.3 and Table 1.1, Appendix B) 5

6 1b) Have students visited the CEL? We asked whether our respondents had visited the CEL. Of our sample, 44% had never used the CEL, 28% had used its service 1-3 times, 13% 4-6 times, and 12% 7 or more times. Figure 1.4 In addition, we compared class year and use of CEL services. As we expected, there was a strong positive correlation (.665) between these variables, implying that as students are at St. Olaf longer, the more they may utilize CEL services. Indeed, 94% of first years and 48% of sophomores had never used the CEL. However, only 21% of juniors and 15% of seniors had never used the CEL (see Table 1.2, Appendix B). We examined use of CEL across majors. We found that 81% of those without declared majors have never visited the CEL, 32% of Natural Sciences and Math majors, 18% of Humanities majors, 17% of Social Sciences majors, 15% of Fine Arts majors, and 3% of Interdisciplinary Studies majors. 1c) Do students want to have a more personal connection (i.e. regular one-on-one meetings) with a career counselor? We asked our respondents whether they d like a more personal connection with a career counselor (personal connection: regular one-on-one meetings). 51% of students desired this personal connection. In addition, when asked whether they wanted help with post-graduation planning, 87% percent of respondents reported they want help, with 42% marking Strongly Agree. 1d) Do students think it s easy to use the CEL s job-seeking services? We asked our respondents if it is easy to use the CEL s job and career seeking services. More than 80% of respondents who have used the CEL said it was easy to use the CEL s job and career seeking services (see Figure 1.5). 6

7 Figure 1.5 We examined the ease of using the CEL across majors. 80% of Natural Sciences and Math majors thought the CEL services were easy to use, 85% of Social Sciences majors, 69% of Humanities majors, all of the Fine Arts majors, 67% of the Interdisciplinary Studies majors, and 85% of those undeclared (See Table 1.3). Concerning the Fine Arts, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies majors, such small numbers answered this question that the results are not conclusive. 2) To what extent are students interested in receiving help with career development? If they are looking for support, do they turn to institutional resources like the CEL or other networks? Further investigating, how, why, and when are students seeking career development services? Summary In order to investigate students use of CEL job- and career-seeking resources (including graduate and professional school seeking resources), we first examined when students started searching for jobs and careers and exploring graduate or professional school. The start or 7

8 planned start of graduate or professional school searches and job- and career-seeking were all correlated with class year and use of CEL. Seniors were more likely to have already started or plan to begin their graduate school or job search soon. Likewise, those who had visited the CEL one or more times were more likely to have already begun their graduate or professional school search. Increased CEL usage was correlated with a job search that had begun longer ago. However, planning to begin a job search was not found to be statistically significantly correlated with any other variables with which it was analyzed. When asked from whom students sought help, parent or guardian was the top response, while the CEL was the least used resource. Students top reasons for seeking help from the CEL were receiving an from the CEL, seeing a poster about the CEL, selfmotivation, and knowledge that the CEL would be helpful. Interestingly, anxiety was not significantly correlated with any of our variables, including use of job and career seeking services at the CEL. Students anxiety does not appear to be affected by when they begin their job or career search or if they use the CEL or not. 2a) When do students begin post-graduation planning (graduate school or job search)? Figure 2.0 Figure 2.1 Figure 2.0 shows that the majority of people who are planning on going to graduate or professional school have not yet started exploring their options. A plurality of those who have started exploring their options started a while ago (as is more evident in Figure 2.1). Roughly 50% of those who have started exploring their options started at least 7 months ago. Our data indicated that, for the most part, the students who need to have started exploring their post-graduation education options have already started: 67.5% of seniors started searching more than 4 months ago. In addition, first years and sophomores who plan to attend graduate or professional school have not yet started searching % of first years and 75.4% of sophomores. This suggests that students who are planning to attend graduate or professional school are acting on a realistic timeline. 8

9 Table 2.0 Table 2.0 shows that a plurality of men and women who plan to attend graduate or professional school have not yet started searching. Although gender is not a statistically significant variable, it is still interesting to note that a higher percentage of men have not started exploring graduate or professional school options (64.9% of men compared with 50.4% of women). Table 2.1 (see Appendix B) shows that a plurality of students who have gone to the CEL seven or more times also started exploring graduate or professional school options more than a year ago, whereas people who have gone to the CEL 0-6 times have not started their graduate or professional school exploration. Table 2.2 Table 2.2. shows that there is a significant relationship between use of CEL services and when students start exploring graduate or professional school. It is a moderately strong positive relationship, with a correlation coefficient of and a significance of <.000. This suggests that students who have started exploring graduate or professional school longer ago are more likely to have visited the CEL. 9

10 Table 2.3 Table 2.4 Tables 2.3 and 2.4 show that there is not a significant correlation between level of anxiety and when students start exploring graduate or professional school options. It is important to note that because this was a "skip" question (i.e. those who are not planning on going to graduate or professional school did not answer it), there was a much smaller portion of our sample answering this question. This suggests that perceived anxiety levels are not affected by when students start exploring graduate or professional school. The majority of students who plan to attend graduate or professional school plan to start exploring their options more than a year from now (Figure 2.3). 10

11 Figure 2.3 In addition, there is a statistically significant relationship between use of CEL services and when students plan to start their graduate or professional school search. It is a moderately weak negative correlation with a correlation coefficient of a significance of.663. This suggests that the more students go to the CEL the earlier they plan to start their graduate or professional school search (see Appendix B, Tables 2.5 and 2.6) Table 2.7 Table

12 Tables 2.7 and 2.8 show that there is not a significant correlation between level of anxiety and when students plan to start exploring graduate or professional school options. It is, again, important to note that because this was a skip question there was a much smaller portion of our sample answering this question. Table 2.9 Table 2.9 shows that a plurality of men and women plan to start exploring graduate or professional school more than a year from now (40.7% of men, 33.3% of women). Tables 2.10 and 2.11 indicate a significant relationship between year in school and when students plan to start exploring graduate or professional school options. There is a moderately strong negative correlation between these two variables, with a value of and an approximate significance of.000. This suggests the closer students are to the end of their college career, the sooner they expect to begin planning their graduate or professional school search. 12

13 Table 2.10 Table 2.11 Figure 2.4 suggests that the vast majority of students have not yet started their job search. Figure 2.5 shows that of those who have started their job search, a plurality of them started more than a year ago. Figure 2.4 Figure

14 Tables 2.12 and 2.13 (Appendix B) show that there is a statistically significant relationship between current year in school and when students have started their job search. It is a moderately strong positive correlation, with a value of.648 and an approximate significance of.000. This suggests that as students year in college increases, they are more likely to have started their job search longer ago. Tables 2.14 and 2.15 (Appendix B) show that there is a statistically significant relationship between when students have started their job search and their use of CEL services. It is a moderately weak, positive correlation with a value of.244 and an approximate significance of.003. This suggests the more times respondents have used CEL services the more likely they are to have started their job search longer ago. However, Tables 2.16 and 2.17 (Appendix B) show that there is not a statistically significant relationship between anxiety level and when students started their job search. Figure 2.6 A plurality of students either do not know when they will start their job search, or are planning on starting the job search more than a year from now (Figure 2.6). Our data also suggests that, of the survey respondents, the majority of men and women either don t know when they will begin their job search or plan to start more than a year from now. In addition, there was not a significant correlation when class year and when students plan 14

15 to start their job search were compared, although it is important to note that very few seniors completed the survey. What s more, there is not a significant relationship between anxiety level and when students plan to start their job search, nor between students frequency in CEL use and when they plan to start their job search (See Tables 2.18, 2.19, and 2.20, 2.21, 2.22, 2.23, and 2.24 in Appendix B). 2b) How do students go about post-graduation planning? What resources do they turn to? Figure 2.7 Figure 2.7 shows that very few people have received help from the CEL in exploring graduate or professional school options. A plurality of students has received help from their parent or guardian. Figure 2.8 and 2.9 (Appendix B) indicate that students sought help from the CEL because they either believed that it could help them in their job search, or because they were self-motivated enough to seek help from any availble resources. One student commented in an open-ended survey question that they intially sought help from the CEL after receiving an from them, and then continued going back because they learned more about the CEL with each visit. Figure 2.10 (Appendix B) indicates that the majority of students surveyed had not used job seeking services at the CEL. Additionally, there was not a statistically significant relationship between anxiety level and use of CEL job seeking services (see Table 2.25, Appendix B). 3) How helpful is the CEL in the job/career/graduate professional school search? Students experience of the services offered by the Center for Experiential Learning affects both their perceptions of the CEL s helpfulness and their knowledge of what the CEL offers for their particular interests. 15

16 3a) Does the CEL offer services for students intended career paths? Using a five-item Likert scale with responses that ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agree (with the inclusion of two non-scale items stating I don t know what the CEL offers and I don t have a career path ), we asked students whether or not they thought the CEL offers services that pertain to their intended career path. 38.5% of students answered that they don t know what services the CEL offers for their specific career paths, while 19.1% find that CEL services do not apply to them because they have not identified a career path. However, for those students who have identified a career direction, 29.3% strongly or somewhat agree that the CEL has offerings for their specific area of interest (see Figure 3.0). Figure 3.0 We set out to examine if there is an association between use of the CEL and students perception that the CEL offers services for their particular career area of interest. However, there was not a significant association of these two variables. The lack of association was also evident through an independent samples t-test and a cross-tabulation comparison, shown in Table 3.0 (Appendix B). In other words, even if students have not used the CEL, our data suggests that students are nonetheless aware whether or not the CEL offers services for their career area of interest (also see Figure 3.1). 16

17 Figure 3.1 In addition, a Spearman s rho test for correlation indicates that the data also does not suggest an association between class year and perception that the CEL offers services for students career path of interest. Although we can make no solid claims given the lack of correlation in the data, the results do suggest that the CEL is communicating well with the student body about its services (see Figure 3.2 and Table 3.1, Appendix B) 3b) How helpful are specific CEL graduate/professional school and job-search related services? We also examined the helpfulness of specific CEL services for students who indicated that have indeed used the CEL (online or in person), including online services for pursuance of graduate and professional school. Overall, the data compiled below indicates that while most students have not used these particular online CEL graduate or professional search services, those students who have used them have found them to more helpful than not (see Table 3.2). However, the overwhelming majority of students who have used the CEL have not utilized these particular online services for the graduate/professional school search. Table 3.2 CEL Online Service Percent of Respondents Who Found Service to Be Somewhat or Very Helpful Online tips for the application 82.3% 70.2% process Website links for searching for 67.5% 76.4% schools Online Workshop: 60% 90.4% Graduate/Professional School Application Process Online Workshop: Writing a 71.5% 91% Graduate School Resume/Curriculum Vitae Website links for admissions 66.7% 86.5% Percent of Respondents Who Had Not Used Service 17

18 tests Other Online Tips 84.8% 70.1% We also examined the usefulness of CEL job-search related services. For most jobseeking services used by students, very high percentages found the services to be helpful. Overall there were large percentages of students who had not used the job-seeking services, but several of the services had higher numbers of respondents who had used the services. Most notably, Resume Critique was marked to be helpful by 95.7% of students, with almost half of respondents indicating that they had used the service. In addition, it was shown that the cel_yourself alias, while not as helpful as resume critique, was used by 62.1% of respondents. Table 3.3 CEL Job-Seeking Service Percent of Respondents Who Found Service to Be Somewhat or Very Helpful Resume Critique 95.7% 50.5% Cover Letter Critique 92.3% 74.8% Meeting with Professional 85.7% 59.2% Staff Interview Skills Workshop 72.2% 82.5% Interview Practice 87.6% 84.5% Online Alumni Directory 66% 48.5% Career Network for Oles 87.5% 56.3% cel_yourself Alias 71.9% 37.9% Networking Fairs 52.9% 83.5% Job Fairs 42.8% 79.6% Percent of Respondents Who Had Not Used Service 3c) What makes it difficult or easy to use the CEL? Regardless of whether students had used the CEL, we asked them to indicate what made the CEL easy or difficult to use. Respondents could check as many responses as they thought applied. The figures below represent the mean percentage of responses for each category and include confidence intervals. By presenting the mean responses and confidence intervals, we can say with 95% confidence that the means, within the range of the confidence interval, can be generalized to show the responses of the whole student body. Overall, it appears that the organization of the website and publicity on campus are elements that make the CEL easy to use. However, 34% of respondents indicated that they did not know any particular feature that made the CEL easy to use. Location was the most detrimental to CEL use (at 25%); however, 41% of respondents indicated that they did not know any particular feature that made the CEL difficult to use. 18

19 Figure 3.3 Figure 3.4 Finally, we asked students to identify what, in general, they thought they might do after graduation. Respondents were asked to check all of the options that applied to them. The mean responses with confidence intervals are represented in the Figure 3.5 below. 47% of students indicated that graduate school was in their general post-graduation plans, while 30% indicated they thought they would pursue a career and 29% indicated they thought they might pursue service or volunteer work. 19

20 Figure

21 Works Cited Brown, Scott C Where This Path May Lead: Understanding Career Decision Making for Post-College Life. Journal of College Student Development 45(4). Retrieved October 9, 2010( own01.html) Eunjoo, Yang and Norman Gysbers Career Transitions of College Seniors. Career Development Quarterly 56(2). Retrieved September 27, 2010( Kolowich, Steve Career Centers See More Students and Fewer Recruiters in Tight Job Market. Chronicle of Higher Education 55(23). Retrieved September 25, 2010( ehost-live) Ludwikowski, Wyndolyn M.A., David Vogel, and Patrick Ian Armstrong Attitudes Toward Career Counseling: The Role of Public and Self-Stigma. Journal of Counseling Psychology 56(3). Retrieved September 27, 2010( direct=true&db=aph&an= &site=ehost-live) Palomares, Amber Employer Expectations of Students Attending Job Fairs. Journal of Career Planning and Employment 60(2): Venable, Melissa A Using Technology to Deliver Career Development Services: Supporting Today s Students in Higher Education. The Career Development Quarterly 59(1). Retrieved September 21, 2010( 21

22 Appendix B Supplementary Figures and Tables 1) Figure 1.1 Table 1.0 Figure

23 Table 1.1 Table 1.2 2) Table

24 Table 2.5 Table 2.6 Table

25 Table 2.13 Table 2.14 Table

26 Table 2.16 Table 2.17 Table

27 Table 2.19 Table

28 Table 2.21 Table

29 Table 2.23 Table

30 Figure 2.8 Figure

31 Figure 2.10 Table

32 3) Table 3.0 Figure

33 Table

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